Blog by Solicitor Mum!

Written By: Solicitor Mum
Edition: July 2019

I recently attended a function at Ropewalk Chambers, celebrating the success of local female lawyers as part of the ‘100 years of women in the law’. It was an eye opener for me, given that I have been in the law for 20 of those 100 years. When I studied law and sought to enter the profession, I confess that it did not occur to me to question whether I would be welcome as a woman, or whether my gender would present me with any additional challenges; I am afraid I just took it for granted that I would receive equal treatment.  Hearing some of the stories of the earlier trail blazers was humbling and made me appreciate my own position which was comparably easy.

Looking back I can think of two minor examples where I was potentially disadvantaged due to my gender, both of which happened in the early days of my career and I’m reasonably confident that they would not occur today. The first was when I went to an interview at a set of chambers, I can’t remember which set it was, but I’m sure it was out of Nottingham! I was dressed in my best suit and sat in the reception where I overheard the clerk commenting with disgust and surprise that surely I was not going to be offered pupillage having turned up for an interview wearing trousers. No one had ever suggested to me in the past that some firms/chambers did not consider trousers to be appropriate attire for a female lawyer and I remember being flabbergasted and to be honest quite confused about the comment. Needless to say I wasn’t offered the pupillage, although looking back that is something I am now very grateful for!

The other example was when I was a paralegal at a solicitors firm and I discovered, due to him bragging, that the only male paralegal in the team was earning more than the female paralegals. I was wildly unimpressed and took my strident views about this to the Head of the Department, again perhaps naively with no fear of repercussion, as to my mind it was just unfair and needed sorting. The Head of Department confirmed that there was certainly no policy of paying men more than women in the firm and to their credit, swiftly rectified the situation. The female paralegals were all given a pay rise to match what the male was earning. I suspect looking back that this was an example of unconscious bias by the HR team at the time, rather than a firm policy. Not that anyone had heard of the term ‘unconscious bias’ back then!

Moving forward I have every reason to be grateful to those who went before me paving the way for my equality. There is of course much to still be done, but in the 20 years I have been privileged to be a member of the profession, it is satisfying that so much progress has been made since my early days.